Thursday, December 13, 2012

Own or Plan to Own a Classic Car? Protect Your Investment

Antique and classic cars are not only a treasure to their owners, but also can be a lucrative investment. Collector cars in mint condition can command many times their original value. But, whether you have one, are considering restoring one or are looking to buy, you need to consider a number of things before spending a lot of money on your "dream car".

Hurricane Sandy, which recently hit the East Coast, damaged thousands of collector cars. One insurance company specializing in classic and antique cars estimated that between 8,000 to 10,000 collector cars were damaged in the storm! Although it is impossible to protect these cars against a force of nature this devastating, it serves notice that classic car owners ensure that their car, whether a treasure or an investment, is as safe as possible. That starts with, but is not limited to, adequate insurance.

Adequate Insurance

Since collector cars don't depreciate like regular cars, coverage is based on an agreed value rather than a cash value. You and your insurance company agree on a value when the policy is purchased that takes into account everything you have invested in your collector car.

Antique or Classic?

Is your car an antique or a classic car? The general rule is that antique and classic stock vehicles were built from the turn of the century through 1972.

It used to be said that any vehicle 20-25 years old or older was considered collectible. That is no longer true. Automakers' production numbers significantly increased in the mid-1970's and quality standards fell. Because of this, there are some mid-1970's and 80's vehicles that are not collectible.

However, some still are because they have desirable amenities such as:
  • Convertibles
  • 2-door sports cars (few 4-door sedans are collectible)
  • Unique body shapes
  • Foreign sports cars
  • Big block V8 engines
Safe Storage

A garage is a necessity for your collector car, and you need to make sure the building is solidly built. Is the foundation strong enough to withstand earthquakes or flooding? Is the roof in good condition, free of debris, and the gutters working properly? Make sure the siding and windows are in good shape and sealed from the elements. While there's little you can do if a hurricane or earthquake strikes, many collector cars are ruined by leaking roofs, excess moisture or minor flooding that could be prevented with a little building maintenance.

If your garage is like most, you probably also have garden tools, a lawnmower, paint and cleaning supplies stored there. All of these items can cause damage if they drop or fall against or into your classic car.

How to Reduce the Risk of Damage:
  • Store rakes, shovels and other hanging tools in cabinets and secure them with hooks. If cabinets aren’t feasible, secure tools to their wall hooks with small bungee cords or rubber straps.
  • Cover your car when it’s being stored to help protect it from flying debris.
  • If you store your car elevated, be sure to support it on sturdy jack stands under the suspension, which should always be under tension. Never use concrete or cinder blocks.
  • For long-term storage, always disconnect the battery. Also, if you know a storm is coming, be sure to pick up from the ground any battery tenders and extension cords to keep them out of floodwaters.
  • Secure heavy objects, such as drills or toolboxes and appliances, with safety straps.
  • Install safety latches (like childproof ones) in cabinet doors and drawers to prevent them from opening and spilling their contents.
  • Fasten ceiling lights and other hanging equipment to supports by using safety cables.
  • For framed pictures, car signs and neon signs, use long-shanked, open-eye hooks and picture wire to fasten them to walls. Make sure the hooks are anchored into the walls with studs. You can also try closed-eye hooks and securely screw them into the back of the frame.
  •  Install flexible gas lines and automatic gas shutoff valves (if your garage is heated).
  • Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher in your garage.
Even if disaster never strikes, following these tips may contribute to a garage that has less clutter and an environment in which your classic car is generally safer.
Sources: Progressive Insurance and Hagerty Classic Car Insurance

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Your Car Needs Care to Keep Healthy

Just like your regular health checkup at the doctor, your car needs a good checkup to see how healthy it is.

To keep your car running smoothly and getting optimum gas mileage, it needs to be properly maintained all year, but especially as the weather turns colder. Windshield wipers, as well as antifreeze and oil levels need to be checked to make sure they’re adequate. Tires need to be checked for wear and proper inflation, and headlights checked for alignment and adequate luminosity. Batteries, which are forced to work much harder in cold weather, need to be fully charged and able to hold the charge. With long, cold, dark nights ahead for the next few months, your safety and the safety of your passengers will rely on your vehicle being in good condition.

While most of the simple maintenance can be done at home, it’s best to have a certified auto repair facility give your car a complete checkup. With their sophisticated diagnostic equipment, they can discover potential problems before they strand you on the road. A weak battery that is adequate in the warmer months, can suddenly give out when you need it most because of the added strain of turning over a car’s engine in the cold. Suddenly the battery won’t start the car and you’re stuck.

Engine oil is another factor. Not only is the oil level important, but the weight of the oil plays a crucial role, too. 30- or 40-weight oil in the summer is fine, but it’s necessary to have a multi-viscosity oil (10-30 or 10-40 weight) in your car for colder weather. 10-weight viscosity is thinner, which helps keep the oil from turning to sludge in the cold, whereas straight 30-weight oil remains thicker, making it difficult to turn the engine over to start it.

It’s also a very good time to have your belts, hoses and fluids tested. While the belts may not be making noise or the hoses leaking, they may be getting worn to the point that they will break at any time. The harsher temperatures put an added strain on them, and can result in a breakdown.

Tires need to be checked for wear, and replaced if worn out. Wet, slippery or icy roads will test a tire’s ability to ‘hold the road’, and worn-out tire treads are dangerous in these conditions. State law also mandates a minimum tread depth, and anything below that can result in a ticket. Additionally, if you are involved in an accident with illegally worn tires, you can be held liable for the damages, depending on the situation.

Why take chances with your car’s health or yours? It can also affect you and the passengers in the car if your car breaks down or is involved in an accident due to being poorly maintained. It can end up costing you much more than the checkup.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How Safe are the Airbags in Your Car?

U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Warning

Since their invention in the 1950s, through their development during the 1970s and added as a required feature in the 1980s, airbags have become an important factor in decreasing injuries of those involved in automotive accidents. Airbags function as supplemental safety devices designed to work with seat belts to minimize injuries in car accidents. In theory, airbags reduce the chance that the occupant of a vehicle's upper body or head will strike the vehicle's interior or windshield during a crash, thus decreasing the severity of injury.

But, are the air bags in your car really safe? Will they deploy in the event of a collision, or will they actually cause further injury? That question has been raised due to the increase in faulty air bag deployment caused by improper installation of airbags in a number of independent auto repair shops in the past few years.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently warned the public that they have a concern involving the purchase and installation of a significant number of potentially faulty air bags by these smaller repair shops. Soon the DOT will announce a process for the public to follow to determine if their vehicle may be at risk. That process may involve questions for insurers who paid claims for air bag replacements. 

The DOT estimates less than one tenth of one percent of all vehicles may be affected, and they have determined that this problem is limited to within the last three years.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has determined that air bags must be used correctly or injury or death can result. Children are especially vulnerable to injury or death from airbags. The NHTSA estimates that about 300 people, including 180 children, have been killed because of air bags. Countless others have sustained injuries.


NHTSA Findings:

• Passenger-side air bags, as they are currently designed, are not acceptable as a protective device for children positioned in front of them and can kill or critically injure these children in accidents that would have been survivable had the air bag not deployed.
 • The number of children killed and critically injured in accidents similar to those investigated for the Board’s study will continue to increase unless immediate action is first taken to determine the benefits of passenger-side air bags, as currently designed.

• Air bags are being designed, because of certification testing requirements, primarily to protect unbelted rather than belted vehicle occupants even though the air bags are promoted as supplemental restraint systems and the majority of motor vehicle occupants now use seatbelts.
• In 9 of the 13 accidents investigated for this study in which there were collisions with other vehicles and passenger-side air bag deployment, the change in velocity was less than 20 mph, yet 5 of the 9 children in the right front passenger seats in these accidents sustained serious, critical, or fatal injuries from contact with the passenger-side air bag (2 of the 5 children were in rear-facing child restraint systems).

If you have had repairs done on your vehicle in the last three years that involved the installation or repair of airbags, it is imperative that you have the devices checked out to make sure they will work properly in the event of an accident. 

You can find more information at 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Washington and Oregon drivers at odds over self-serve gas

Washington and Oregon Drivers Worlds Apart on Self-Service Gas Laws

PEMCO Insurance has released a survey that shows a big difference in opinions on pumping your own gas between drivers in these bordering states.

The release shows that 63% of Oregon drivers support their state’s ban on motorists pumping their own gasoline, while 60% of Washington drivers – male and female – support being able to pump their own gas. About half of Oregon drivers said they would support a change in their self-service ban if it meant saving as little as five cents per gallon.

While Washington allows self-service gas stations, Oregon is one of just two states that ban self-service gas stations, with New Jersey the other state. The laws in these two states require gas stations to train attendants to pump gas for customers and prohibit drivers from pumping their own gas.

“The Oregon legislature says that full-service gas stations are especially necessary because of Oregon’s high rainfall, which increases the risk of people slipping on wet pavement and falling on spilled gasoline,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.

The self-service ban was passed by the Oregon legislature in 1951 (although self-service gas didn’t become popular nationwide until the early 1970s) on the basis that self-service gas stations are less safe, increasing the risk of accidental fires. The Oregon Revised Statutes also defend today’s law on economic grounds, citing that “self-service dispensing at retail locations contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people.”

According to the PEMCO poll, Washington residents are unconvinced of the economic benefits of gas-pumping laws. The poll presented drivers with a proposed scenario suggesting that a shift from Washington’s self-service model to the full-service law would result in an increased cost of about five cents per gallon and create new jobs for Washington residents. Despite the prospect of new jobs, nearly two-thirds of Washington drivers said they would oppose costlier gasoline.
Oregon drivers, however, are more motivated by economic factors – about half (49 percent) said they would consider favoring a change in the self-service ban if it meant saving as little as five cents per gallon.

So, as it stands now, once you drive across the Columbia River into Washington, you'll need to get out of your car and pump the fuel yourself, since you won't find anyone to help you.

And as for you Washingtonians, don't forget that it's illegal to pump your own gas, so hopefully you won't be waiting long!

Source: PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Carbon Monoxide Alarms Now Required Before Homes can be Sold in Washington

Carbon monoxide poisoning kills hundreds of people each year in the U.S. This poisonous gas is invisible and odorless, and so you cannot hear, taste, see or smell it. Many of its victims are individuals or entire families who, although they are aware they don't feel well, by the time the gas has taken effect they are disoriented and unable to save themselves. Young children and pets are usually the first affected by this killer.

As of April 1, 2012, Washington's RCW 19.27.530 requires all sellers to have operating carbon monoxide alarms installed in accordance to the state building code before a buyer or any person can legally occupy the residence following the sale. The building code (WAC 51-51-0315)  requires alarms to be installed:
1) outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of each bedroom;
2) on each level of the dwelling; and
3) in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

The building code also requires that the alarms comply with UL 2034. There are no exceptions to this, and they may be electric or battery operated.

In addition, a property owner must install carbon monoxide alarms when performing any remodels, repairs or additions to their dwelling that require a building permit. (New construction has been required to have carbon monoxide alarms installed since January 2011.)

At times during power outages in cold weather, unsuspecting homeowners will operate propane heaters or barbeque grills inside in an effort to stay warm. One of the byproducts of this combustion is carbon monoxide. This can, and does, poison entire families while they sleep. Do not EVER use propane heaters or wood stoves without proper ventilation to the outside!

The alarms are triggered by carbon monoxide levels below those that can cause loss of ability to react and prevent death from exposure to this poisonous gas. Small children and pets will display symptoms before adults, so be aware if they suddenly start acting ill. Immediately open windows and exit the house, then call the police. Do not re-enter the building until the source of the gas has been eliminated.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Windstorm Causes a Tree to Fall on Your House. Who is Responsible?

With all the wintry weather we’ve been hit with lately, not only is it hazardous to drive in, but it takes a toll on large trees in the heavily-wooded Northwest. You see trees down all over, some on the roads, others sprawled across people’s property. With all the tall trees surrounding homes in this heavily-wooded part of the country, there is the ever-present danger of one of these large trees toppling over and causing damage to buildings, cars or property, or even injury to its occupants.

Many homeowners don’t realize that, without proper coverage, they are liable for damages to their property, even if it’s from a tree on a neighboring property!

A recent PEMCO Insurance poll found that 82% of the people surveyed falsely believe that a neighbor’s insurance policy is at least partially liable for damage if a tree planted in the neighbor’s yard harms your house, fence or other structures. In addition, a full 60% believe it’s strictly the neighbor’s insurance company that will need to pay for the damages. In reality, unless negligence is a factor, homeowners are responsible for any structural damage to their own property!

“With so few homeowners knowing the right answer, and windstorms so common in the Northwest, we have a great opportunity here to educate consumers,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.

While most homeowners policies will cover this type of damage, and for debris removal, too, if it can be proven that the damage stems from neglecting to maintain the health or safety of the tree, the neighbor (or you!) can be held responsible for the problem.

PEMCO recommends that you cut dead or rotting branches on all trees on your property to prevent them from falling on your house, or your neighbor’s house. 

Also, if you have a tree that is beginning to lean or looks like it might topple, it is best to hire a professional to have the tree removed before it falls over and causes damage. As the old saying goes, "It's better to be safe, than sorry."